During the narrative Jam, our aim was to create a 1000-word non-linear story. I had considered writing a story based on my character and animation, but as I had been working on the same character for two weeks, I was running out of ideas for her. So, instead, I decided to create my narrative around two new characters.
My research started by looking at different types of non-linear story design, and which one I might want to take forward. At first, I wanted to design a branching story that could, in theory, be transferred into a text adventure game. However, given our limited time to work on this, I decided to scrap this idea, and possibly return to it later.
Instead, I decided I would like to write two 500 word pieces, of one event, in one short amount of time, but from two different perspectives. The idea would be that you could read each piece individually, or both pieces in either order. So, to go forward with this I began designing my two characters that would feature. I liked the idea of having two neighbours (perhaps in an apartment building) passing each other on the way to the garbage shoot. No verbal interactions would take place, everything written would be in their first-person perspective, with their opinions on the other person being explored.
About the Characters
Miss Alba: Is an old, widowed, sour lady. She has her own children, but Ian has never once seen them visit. In fact, he constantly hears her being nasty to the local children, which upsets him. Alba is a heavy smoker with stage two lung cancer (causing her to have lots of coughing fits) She hates animals, particularly dogs and despises anyone making noise after 8pm.
Ian: Ian is a young adult, he has never smoked, taken alcohol or taken any other form of drugs. He has lost 95% of his vision in a car accident, as such must have a support dog. His support dog is a girl called Taffee. Ian is also an avid painter, but since the accident, his style has changed from emphasis on colour to emphasis on touch and feel. He often listens to classical music to inspire him, and his work can keep him up late at night. Ian would love to one day have a family of his own.
The clock taunts me. I glance around my one-bedroom apartment on the upper east side, and still it taunts me. Incessant ticking drives my brain into a frenzy of thoughts. Some good, some bad. Most are bad.
Seconds feels like minutes, and minutes truly feel like hours when you’re aged and alone. When no one visits, and the only knock upon the door is that of the landlord. Although, every time I hope for any one of my children to visit me.
I wonder if I died, how long would my rotting corpse sit in this hole unnoticed?
I wonder if anyone would care?
It is then, as I sip my bitter luke-warm coffee and stare as the pendulum swings back and forth, that I hear her, the most irritating sound on this earth. A high-pitched wail only new mothers could bare. Yet it’s not a baby. It’s that damned dog, Taffee. Then I can hear his deep voice, bellowing through the building like some unwanted public speaker. I’d never been an animal lover, which made this dog so much worse. Constantly making noise, bellowing into the night when no one is listening.
I pull myself from my armchair, let out a disgruntled sigh, and head to the kitchen to take my next dose of medication. It is a deadly concoction of Carboplatin, Gemcitabine, Vinorelbine and Bevacizumab. Followed by radiation therapy in a few hours. I don’t want to go, I never wanted to start chemotherapy. But, it seems like I never really make any decisions of my own. It’s easier for my kids to pay to keep me alive and never see me, than it is to be here by my side as I die with dignity. I would have preferred the latter.
All fifteen of my pills are washed down with the last of my coffee. I try to catch my breath, and as I do so I feel a deadly force take over my body. As I gasp for air, I must clench my chest. The pain is too much to bare as I begin to cough and splutter, unable to keep myself still. After a few minutes it passes, and I’m able to take some large, reassuring breaths.
I steady myself, and continue with my day.
By now, I should have taken the garbage out.
Slippers on, cane in hand, trash bag in the other, I head downstairs. As I leave my apartment, the same gaggle of boys play in the hall, screaming at each other, and almost taking me out as they run around. I shoo them with my cane, then carry on to the garbage disposal room.
I finish throwing away my trash, and turn to leave. It is then that he enters, with Taffee by his side. She barks at me, whines, scratches at the floor trying to get away from him. He smiles, his eyes hidden by dark sunglasses. Yet, once he notices its me, his smile fades. I edge my way around the dog, tut, and leave.
Taffee wakes me up with an excited bark, jumping onto my single bed and circling twice before she decides to paw at me. She doesn’t like it when I sleep in, and now her stomach is telling her its lunch time.
“Good morning my girl” I smile, reaching out and stroking Taffee’s ears, before I feel her hop down from the bed, and hear the pitter patter of her paws as she heads for her food bowl to wait patiently.The sun in streaming in, causing a comfortable warmth to creep along my arm and back, the light is nice to watch, I can still sense it, on good days.
After getting up, and doing everything one might do first thing in the morning, I head into the kitchen to feed Taffee. She chows down almost as soon as the first kibble hits the bowl, letting out satisfied grunts and noises as she eats. I leave her to it, taking my coffee with me as I head into the lounge. I can hear MIss Alba’s television, echoing through the apartment building at what feels like one hundred decibels. She starts to cough, and doesn’t stop for a good two minutes. She should really get that looked at.
To drown out the depressing noises of next door, I shove on one of my favorite records, and continue with my painting. The windows are wide open and I can hear the chirp of birds, the cars on the street outside, whispers of pedestrians talking to each other, talking on the phone, going about their life.
I feel the canvas, allowing my senses to take over as I feel the lumps of paint already there, the shapes I’d already created. I open a tube of paint, it doesn’t matter what colour, then I proceed to pour it onto my hand, messily applying it to the canvas, adding to the structures already present. I can feel each sharp edge, every uneven surface. It’s a new way of working for me, but I enjoy it. I don’t have much choice now, unfortunately.
“Shoo! Go on get away you nasty little boys!” Miss Alba shouts, her voice reverberating from the hallway. I sigh, my inspiration lost, then I splash the canvas with as much paint as I can, as angrily as I can. That’s Miss Alba, one angry long streak of colour.
I should probably take out the trash, Taffee reminds me. Pawing at my ankle and directing me to the overflowing trash bin.
Taffee and I make our way down to the trash chute, and someone is in here. I smile, hoping for it to be one of my friendlier neighbors. Yet, when I hear the tut, and feel the rage projected, I know its her. My smile fades.
She leaves, and I go on with my day.